I've heard this one so many times before, and yet, today, I was struck anew by the inanity of it.
Student: "Hey, can you let me into [upper division course not required for the major]?"
Me: "It's full."
Student: "I know - can you let me in anyway?"
Me: "Is there some reason you need to be in this course?"
Student: "Well... it really fits my schedule."
How many times have each of us had this conversation? How many times have I just laughed and said "no" and walked away? How is it that I was never before so thunderstruck by the simple failure to grasp the difference between 'reasons salient to ME' and 'reasons salient to YOU'?
Well, this time, I did NOT laugh, damn it. I teach people how to think, for god's sake. This - THIS! - was a Teachable Moment (TM).
Me: "Does that strike you as a good reason for you to want the class?"
Student, blankly: "Uh, yeah."
Me: "Good, that's fine. Now, does that strike you as a good reason for ME to want YOU to be IN the class?"
Student, brow furrowed and clearly guessing: "Uh, yes?"
Me: "No, no... look, it makes no difference to me what your schedule is, right? This is what we were talking about at the beginning of the semester. To you, it follows from 'This is convenient to my schedule' that 'I want to be in this class', but what you NEED to do is construct an argument that gets to 'you (the professor) should want to let me into this class', and the premise you're -"
Student, walking away: "It's fine, I'll find another class."
Getting Students to Think: 0
Getting Students to Leave Me the Hell Alone: 1
I'll take it.